A tribute to and scrapbook of Joe Amato, world-class drummer and respected teacher header image 3

——The First Time I Met Joe Amato——-

I called Joe at his palatial Astoria home off Niagra and asked if I could some Drum Lessons. This was around fall of 1971. He set me up with Fridays at 3PM. I got there and he was picking corn or something in the garden. We exchanged pleasantries and then he showed me into his cool basement studio.Joe Amato Yearbook Photo He knew I had been playing some so told me to sit down at his nice old vintage practice set in the NE corner of the room and show him what I could do. So I laid down a stock rock groove, then switched to something a bit funkier. I wasn’t watching him while I played but in retrospect he may well have been rolling his eyes at this point.(’Rolling Eyes’)
Rolling Eyes He told me I had some good stuff going on but we were going to have to work on my grip. I had been playing with Mother Hubbard’s Wonderland Band for a couple years, was totally self taught with a very loose parade style grip. He got out some books with pictures of Gene Krupa showing how the sticks should be held, where the fulcrum or grip points should be. Then we talked about the angle of this and that, how close to hold your elbows in, how the motion of the left hand was the same as shaking water from it and the the right hand was like cracking a whip, about manipulating the bounce of the stick. Getting the tip up away from the head and ready to go again etc. He was glad I taken enough piano lessons to have a bit of theory and encouraged me to get more piano lessons in order to become a complete musician. He then sat down at his piano and played me a tune showing me that he subscribed to his own advice. He told me to get a drum pad, some 2B sticks and spend at least an hour a day concentrating on the proper grip and the single stroke roll, starting slowly and gradually increasing the tempo. We wound up going about 15 minutes over lesson time. I don’t think I ever spent a full hour practicing but I would carry the sticks around with me and play on anything and everything anywhere. Probably ruined a lot of nice stuff doing that.

by Pierce

Discuss - 4 Comments

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tom Coryell // May 10, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    Wow, what a blast from the past!
    This totally reminds me of my first lesson. I had wanted to play the drums since I was really little. Finally I got my chance and was told I would have a lesson from Joe. As I walked up that long driveway from Niagra Street I could hear this Awesome rockin’ beat coming from the basement. As I continued, with a combination of anticipation and nervousness, I was picturing a young, longhaired rocker down there.
    As I approached in that dimly lit and aroma filled room I saw the back of a bald head and a giant of a man. He sat tall and relaxed and the whole scene was surreal. I stood there in amazement for a good 10 minutes before he turned and smiled at me. I don’t think there was much sizing up to do. I was just a scared little kid. I’ll never forget that day.
    We went onto the practice pad and worked on the stroke. As you say, crack the whip and shaking water from your hand.
    Your description above brings back many memories from the years of lessons that followed.
    Thanks Joe for everything.
    Many thanks to you too Pierce for getting this started. I hope to add more as I get time.
    Tom Coryell

  • 2 Pierce // May 10, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Welcome Tom, thanks for taking the trouble to find us here. There were numerous times Joe surprised me with the kind of material he would be working on when I showed up for a lesson. One time he was laying down the ultra funky beat from Herbie Hancocks ‘Chameleon’. Somehow he came up with the chart and there he was playing all those hip syncopated bass drum lines against straight quarter notes on the bell of his ride with a staggered backbeat on the snare. When he finished he said:
    “Thats cute, but it’s nothing new really. I’ve played those rhythms before, it’s just the bass drum part was on the ride and vice versa.”
    I’ll never forget that beat as it became a fav.
    I’m looking forward to more of your memories Tom. Keep em’ commin’.

  • 3 Helen Bagley // Mar 22, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    I have been working with Lee Lahti in getting his life in a scrapbook form with class. Lee is 85 with dementia but recalls memories of his love of drums. The story that he tells is this…At the age of 4, Lee’s father gave him a drum for Christmas, which he still has to this day.
    Lessons were in order and Lee with his mother caught the train in Knappa to Astoria. They walked to the Schooner Tavern where they would meet Joe Amato whom would conduct lessons. Joe indicated to Lee that in order to play drums you need to have the ear for it and Lee did. Lee recalls a George Comb that was a music teacher and head drummer from Portland that came to teach Lee also.
    George’s mother was a piano teacher and would come from Astoria to the Lahti house to teach the locals of Brownsmead areas.
    This story continues although it is in the makings. If you would like to follow my journey into Lees life and story, go to my blog, I will be posting it page by page there.
    So glad to have found you in my search for Joe Amato.
    Helen Bagley

  • 4 Pierce // Apr 4, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Glad you found us too. Looking forward to visiting your blog. Is Lee any relation to the fine drummer Toivo Latte ?

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